As Stephen Harper reshapes the country’s image, many are wondering what’s next. Among them is Eugene Whelan – a voice from the political past.
Now 87, Mr. Whelan served as Pierre Trudeau’s agriculture minister and was known not only for his plain-speaking but for wearing a green Stetson hat.
The long-time MP, who left elected politics in 1984 but was later appointed to the Senate, is hopping mad at the Conservatives, especially Defence Minister Peter MacKay, for restoring the “royal” prefix to the navy and air force.
What’s next, he wonders – daring Mr. MacKay to bring back the Union Jack.
“I am surprised that great guy, by the name of MacKay, isn’t getting rid of the Canadian flag,” Mr. Whelan said, calling The Globe to voice his anger at the military name change.
“Why don’t he get rid of that? ... I am sure Mackay wouldn’t dare going back to the Union Jack, for what it stood for,” Mr. Whelan said.
“We are different,” he added. “We are not a colony anymore.”
The former minister, who was first elected in 1962, recalls the debate when the Canadian Red Ensign, which incorporated the Union Jack, was replaced by the red-and-white Maple Leaf flag.
And he remembers listening to NDP leader Tommy Douglas speak about the meaning of the Union Jack, arguing it was shaped by the Crusades. And what did they stand for? “Murder, rape and pillage,” Mr. Whelan said.
As for amalgamating the Canadian Forces, Mr. Whelan was there for that as well. He noted that Lester Pearson, the Liberal prime minister, and defence minister Paul Hellyer were both war veterans.
He said the move was “supposed to save money” and “make us all one.”
Mr. Hellyer backs that up. He’s also weighed into the debate, writing in the Toronto Star: “Reinstatement of the Royal designations in the Canadian Armed Forces is a monumental blunder of historic proportions.”
Accusing the Conservative government of turning “the military clock back more than 40 years with unpredictable and inevitably costly consequences,” the former defence minister noted the main reason for unification was “the wasteful duplication and triplication of the three services.”
Obama takes a page from Ignatieff?
Another summer, another political bus tour. This time it’s U.S. President Barack Obama, who is trying to revive his image and appeal to the ordinary American voter.
Last summer, it was former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who crossed the country in an effort to get known by Canadians.
Both tours are not without controversy. Mr. Ignatieff’s bus broke down on the first day – foreshadowing, perhaps, the eventual breakdown of the Liberal Party in the May 2 election.
“It didn't matter how successful our bus tour was," Cape Breton Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner told The Globe. "The road to electoral success had already been carpet-bombed by the Conservative attack ads against Michael before the bus had even left the terminal.”
Mr. Obama, meanwhile, is attracting headlines for traveling in a $1.1-million luxury bus (an upgrade from the Grit vehicle.)
The outer shell of the bus was built in Canada, provoking this headline in the New York Post: “Canucklehead Obama bus-ted!”